Category Archives: Life On The Ranch

Auslander Ranchers

I received the lovely photograph (see below) from a friend and amateur photographer, Jim Harris. In truth the picture was taken of a woman in chaps from New Mexico, but it fits well our local situation. Many folks moving into the Texas Hill Country bring with them their lifestyles and fashions.

Branding In Style

The photograph depicts this aspect nicely. You can notice the clean red ostrich boots on this well-dressed lady rancher. If you look closely, you will notice a diamond bracelet on her wrist. She is, nevertheless, wielding the branding iron with an air of competence and determination. Her dress is not the usual dress of our locals who typically wear worn out jeans, muddy work boots, pearl button shirts, and beat up cowboy hats.

Gillespie County, the county in which Fredericksburg is located, continues to have agriculture as its number one industry. Admittedly, this distinction has been helped of late by the 100 or so wineries and vineyards that have flocked to our area. Gillespie county ranchers continue to raise many cattle, goats, and sheep.

Being a newly minted rancher back in 2001, I felt the probing and suspicious eyes of my fellow ranchers when I attended Field Days or other agricultural events. I was, after all, a newbie and likely seen as an Auslander with questionable intent. I certainly lacked ranching experience. In any event after eighteen years, Trudy and I feel better integrated and believe we do a reasonable job ranching cattle. Nevertheless, this picture reminds me of the social divide and suspicion we felt in those early days after moving in at Medicine Spirit Ranch.

Have you ever experienced similar cultural divides? Would love to hear from you.

Morning Symphony

Trudy and I continue to “camp out” in our guesthouse while our home undergoes renovation and restoration. Because of a flood, our wooden floors required replacing and we had to move out for three weeks. While we were at it, we decided to do a bit of updating as well. Fortunately we had a guesthouse to move into rather than having to move to a motel (a dog friendly one, of course). We plan on moving back to our usual house in just a few days. Hoorah!

While we have felt frustration over our inability to access certain items, my morning routine has remained unchanged. It begins with a canine symphony, or should I call it a canine cacophony?

You see, after I shower and begin to dress for the day, my two Border collies, Bandit and Bella, begin barking like crazed dogs. They become so excited by the prospect of going out onto the ranch. They are not at all patient


“Two-footed humans sure move slowly!”

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Jack, our little brown dog, appears nonplussed by the whole matter. If anything Jack places himself between the Borders and me, attempting to prevent the overly excited collies from jumping up  while I totter about on one leg, putting on my jeans.

I am a good dog in the morning, not like those noisy Border collies.”

I’ve found that the barking of the Border collies cannot be suppressed. I try repeatedly to shush them verbally, but to no avail. I even resort to gently squeezing their jaws together. Nothing works. Bella, bless her little canine heart, has even taken to nipping at my legs (very disconcerting for me), if I don’t move along at her desired pace. She clearly herds me in the direction of the pickup and becomes visibly frustrated if I need to double back.

Unfortunately, even on reaching the pickup, the morning symphony of dog barking doesn’t stop. My good neighbor and friend, Tom Norris, says he can always tell where I am on the ranch because of the dogs’ barking. You see, sounds carries very well in Live Oak Valley.

I suppose my dogs’ barking is a new form of G.P.S., i.e. godawful pet sounds! Or maybe it should be C.P.S, Canine Positioning System. Eventually the dogs stop barking, although I suspect it may be because of doggie hoarseness.

My frequency of blog posting (and FB posting) has slowed lately. This absence results from the time I’ve  devoted to writing another book. I am entering the final phases of finishing my next book (well prior to sending it off to potential agents and publishers and the lengthy process that is sure to follow). My book is tentatively titled Hitler: Prescription for Defeat.

The book seeks to answer the “Holy Grail” of questions about Hitler- that is, what was it that affected his reasoning to the extent that he made such colossal blunders in judgement toward the end of World War II. The premise of my book is that Hitler’s failing health and abnormal personality largely explain his errors in judgment and aided the Allies in achieving victory. The book goes into Hitler’s major and minor illnesses along with describing his unusual personality characteristics and how these aspects worked against him. His health is spliced into a number of the major battles of World War II. Wish me luck!

I have  received feedback from my beta readers on Hitler: Prescription For Defeat and have made the necessary edits. I feel so grateful for the time and expertise of Janet, LaNelle, Tom, and Madeline for carrying out this helpful task. Thank you. Extra sets of eyes prove very useful!

By the way, if you haven’t had a chance to read my first book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales, I hope you will pick it up at your favorite bookstore or order a copy. The book has won awards, and received generous comments from Amazon readers. These reviews on Amazon are extremely welcome and encouraging.

Carrying the Black Bag book

My absolute favorite feedback about Carrying The Black Bag came in the form of a picture from a family member who was at the time training as a Pediatric surgical nurse.

This young reader gave me a great morale boost by reading my book between surgical cases

Taylor McNeill, a surgical nurse and dear niece, reading my book between cases

The days at Medicine Spirit Ranch are lengthening and warming, and it won’t be long until Central Texas looks like the picture below. Spring with the wildflowers is hard to beat!

Bluebonnets and Paints

The Lunar Eclipse and Blood Moon

Like many of you, Trudy and I recently stayed up late to witness the lunar eclipse and “Blood Moon.” Received spectacular pictures of this from Bruce Frels, brother to good friend and retired Dentist, Buddy Frels. Bruce is a professional photographer and captured these images. This is what the night sky looked like over Medicine Spirit Ranch.
Hope the quality shows up for these really amazing photos. Here goes!

 

I hope this provides you with the same sense of awe I experienced. One advantage of living out in the country is very little light pollution. It makes witnessing such scenes as this really speccial. Hope you enjoy the sight.

Great Blue Herons Are Adaptable

I’ve written about Great Blue Herons in this blog previously and have been especially impressed with their legends and natural beauty. Pleasingly our ranch has again been graced by several Great Blue Herons that create in me a sense of awe both by their size and striking beauty.

Each morning I’ve spotted  a Great Blue Heron in the top of a tall tree on the other side of our stock tank, watching me. My procedure has been to throw out feed for the duck and  fish. I always throw some feed near the shore to attract fish for the heron that I know will soon arrive. The feed  attracts fish and the Great Blue Heron arrives as soon as my back is turned. I’ve written of this previously in a blog post “Chumming for Heron”.

A Great Blue Heron. Not my heron but representative

The heron’s technique in the past has been to make himself small by curling itself up, hiding in the weeds, and at the right instance, launching itself at an unsuspecting  fish. Lately the fish seem to have caught onto the heron’s fishing ways and avoid swimming close to the bank of the pond. Nevertheless, many fish surface for the food just out of the heron’s reach.

Successful fishing. This is not really my heron but a look alike. Mine is too camera shy to allow me to snap a good image of it.

I’ve witnessed the heron missing meals of late due to this adaptability by the fish. To my surprise and in response to the change in fish behavior, I’ve also noticed a change in the heron’s fishing tactics. The heron  has begun landing on the surface of the water and swimming around like a duck. Upon spotting a fish in the shallow water, the heron suddenly turns tail to heaven. Soon it surfaces with a fish in its beak.

Also I’ve witnessed a second change of tactics. The heron flies across the tank at low altitude obviously searching for fish and then suddenly plunges into the water head first. The heron submerges itself, but sure enough on regaining the surface it has a fish in its beak. It then swims to the bank where it  enjoys its breakfast.

Such adaptability in herons as well as fish, I find interesting and surprising. I assume  in the game of life for herons and fish, adaptability benefits both just as adaptability has great value for us humans.

I trust the heron will enjoy a nice meal for Thanksgiving, as I hope readers of this blog will as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

How Green The Valley

When the drought ended a few weeks back, it ended on a convincing note- over 10 inches of rain. What a difference rain makes. Despite the obviousness of this statement, I find myself in a state of wonder and awe when seeing our new crop of wild flowers, deep green grass, and flowering bushes around the ranch and yard. Thought I would share a few pictures.

Wildflowers against a background of green pasture

Copper Canyon daisies have popped up all over

Lantana has been going crazy both in the yard and all over the ranch

The flowers in our Texas plantar (who says I’m a proud Texan?) have begun to flower once again

Little Jack: Flowers are okay I guess, but nothing tops a good scratch

Speaking of inspiration, yesterday I sneaked off to the driving range and hit golf balls. There I ran across a man in his forties who was also smacking balls. The difference was that he had a congenitally deformed foot that allowed him only to balance on the toe of his left foot. Despite this handicap, he was out battling the golf gods and giving no quarter to his handicap. Now this was inspirational!

I hope everyone takes a few moments and looks around for the little things in their lives that provide inspiration, awe, and hope. It is there if we just look.

 

Puppy Love- Part IV and Conclusion of Jack’s Story

Editor’s Note: This is the concluding episode of Little Jack’s backstory. He clearly has enjoyed dictating his story, and I have enjoyed writing it down. I have learned Jack is an amazing little brown dog with a far more interesting and heroic background than i had suspected. He and I hope you have enjoyed his story. Jack has certainly enjoyed his fan mail.

 

Little Jack dictating his story

 

I knew I couldn’t survive much longer on my own. By then I had learned the pitfalls of being a lone dog on the road. Eating whatever I managed to catch had proven too infrequent to sustain myself. Moreover dodging guard llamas and donkeys, avoiding fierce horses, evading cars and trucks, and barely escaping the clutches a mountain lion had taken their toll on my freedom-loving doggie spirit. I was ready to exchange a few biscuits of freedom for a bowlful of security.

The following afternoon I trotted along the country road until it passed through a ranch entrance. There the road became an even smaller byway.

A sign at the ranch entrance

I then traveled up a steep hill. With the climb my paw pads became progressively sorer and my belly increasingly empty. When I lifted my nose from the ground, I saw a white stone house perched high upon the hill. It became a distant visual target that encouraged my flagging hopes. I knew exhaustion would soon overcome me if I couldn’t find rest and food. What did I have to lose by proceeding up the hill to its summit? Might this signal what I had been searching for my whole life?

Shortly after arriving in the front yard of the house, I heard a noisy, old pickup grinding its way up the hill. Fear welled up within me, as I had suffered close calls from such vehicles. I tried to hide, but could find no good place to do so.

Soon out of the truck stepped a clean-shaven man who was quickly followed by two large dark and white dogs. The dogs that later I learned were Border collies sensed my presence almost immediately. When the collies ran my way, I retreated, but the two dogs were bigger and faster than I was. The collies quickly trapped me inside the fenced yard. I turned on them, crouched, growled, and prepared to make my stand. While trying to appear aggressive, I knew my energy level and my physical state were depleted. I doubted I could protect myself for long from these larger well-fed, highly energetic dogs.

This is the pickup that came up the hill. Now I get to ride in it rather than have to walk everywhere

I hunkered down, my teeth bared, expecting a vicious attack at any moment. Then to my surprise the man called off his dogs and they stood down. The man then tried to catch me, but even in my depleted state, I was far too quick for him. You see two-footed, overweight humans move pretty slowly. This was my first time I saw Pickup Man. I didn’t know his intentions, and he frightened me, because by then I was afraid of just about everything and everyone.

Pickup Man with his Border collies and me

The man who by then was out of breath headed for the stone house and left me alone in the yard with his dogs. The Border collies fortunately kept their distance from me. Not long after going into the white house, Pickup Man came back carrying a piece of fried chicken. Oh, it smelled so good. In the face of the luscious smelling meat, my fears simply melted away. My thoughts of evasion collapsed before that tantalizing smell and luscious looking meat. I climbed straight up into his arms to eat the meat. I wolfed down the tasty chicken, as Pickup Man held me and carried me toward the white stone house. He stroked my head as he walked and said soft words.

Once inside the house he called out to his human companion. That’s when I first met Nice Lady. She came into the room and looked surprised at what Pickup Man was carrying. She approached us and gently took me from his arms. She caressed my head, scratched my ears, and said kind, soft words to me. She told Pickup Man how skinny, dirty, and, exhausted I appeared.

Nice Lady standing beside a Hay bale

The rest you might say is doggie history. Nice Lady proceeded to give me a soapy, warm bath in a large bathtub. She fixed a place for me to sleep next to her bed. She fed me regularly and liberally.

Nice Lady even feeds me with me sitting in her lap

Oh, and the food came from cans, a seemingly bottomless giant plastic bin of dry dog food, and even her dinner table. It all smelled and tasted so good to this half-starved dog. It took me several weeks to get used to all that food, as my system wasn’t used to eating much or very often. I eventually became used to eating more frequently and the food proved so much better than the meals I had eaten while on the road.

Here I am all cleaned up but looking pretty skinny

Nice Lady stroked me often and nursed me back to full health. I gained weight and my energy gradually returned. I knew I had found a promising new home with caring humans along with an accepting pack of dogs. And to make matters even better Pickup Man regularly took me for rides around his ranch in the backseat of his pickup. The Border collies he relegated to the bed of his pickup. Riding in a pickup was ever so much easier on my paw pads than walking.

Here I am with Pickup Man inside his truck

Well this is the end of my story prior to coming to live with Pickup Man and Nice Lady. It isn’t heroic like the stories of Lassie or Rin Tin Tin, both legends in the canine world. Nor am I as well known, as a dog that lived up the highway in Mason, Texas, a dog whose name was Old Yeller. But it’s my story and I’m proud of it.

My adventures in the big stinky city and my exploits on the road made me, for better or worse, what I am today. For sure I learned resiliency.

I wanted Pickup Man to write down my story to fill in my background for Nice Lady and him. This is the best I can recall.

Later when talking to friends, I overheard Pickup Man and Nice Lady talk about naming me Little Jack Kerouac. They said something about a book written by a man named Jack Kerouac that described his time on the road. Pickup Man and Nice Lady thought there must be similarities between his story and mine. Kerouac had described his experience, as the road is life. Well I also had traveled a road of my life to this new and happier place, and perhaps like Jack Kerouac, I had grown from and been molded by my life experiences.

I am now a wiser dog but also a pampered one

The friends of Pickup Man and Nice Lady all laughed at hearing why my name had been chosen and seemed to enjoy it much like I might enjoy a good steak bone. So that’s how I gained my new name, and I hope it makes better sense to you than it does to me. Humans can act pretty mystifying at times. But I am happy now with my name, Little Jack, and have learned to respond to it.

Now I’ll leave the rest of the story to Pickup Man, that is, if he chooses to write it down. I don’t know if he will, as he spends a lot of time sitting at his desk, clicking away on his keyboard. Sometimes he says he is moving his mouse around and on one occasion even claimed his mouse had died. Sometimes humans say the silliest things, because I know what a mouse is and even caught and ate several while on the road. I don’t know what makes Pickup Man say such crazy things, but I care for him anyway, even if a little daffy.. I think overall he is a good pack leader.

Frankly I’d just as soon Pickup Man get up from behind his computer and take me riding in his pickup, or else go for a walk across our ranch. I wouldn’t even mind if he takes along those herding obsessed Border collies of his. After all they long ago gave up trying to herd me. You see, I ‘m not the biggest dog around, but I carry a big bite.

I have gotten used to the Border collies and to respect their bravery

I’ve actually learned to respect those Border collies for their skill at herding cattle and for their bravery in the face of some really big animals. They aren’t varmint hunters like me, yet I have gained a grudging respect for their remarkable abilities. Admittedly, I have also grown to care for them, look out for them, and enjoy being part of the same pack.

What makes my life even better is knowledge that a full dinner bowl always awaits me at the house. Despite knowing this I still keep my nose to the ground, and seek out armadillos and possums. If I catch an armadillo or possum, I don’t even bother to eat it anymore, as I know better fare awaits me- dirty nose and all- at my white stone home on the hill.

As I write this I am almost nine years old, that is 63 in dog years. Wow, I am getting old. In the process I’ve learned a few things that I wish to share. Chief among my observations is gaining a strong sense of place. While early in life, I wished to explore the entire world, now I know that to be impractical. I now recognize my special place, my correct place in the world, is right here in Live Oak Valley living in a house on a hill.

I can explore the valley, splash in my favorite spring-fed creeks, relish my varmint chases, quietly observe graceful deer without feeling the need to chase them, and most importantly revel in a sense of belonging to one special place. I love my dog/human pack and my pack loves me. As I’ve grown older, being loved and loving others have become more important matters to me. I think perhaps that is what life is all about. This valley, this ranch, these dogs, and these people just feel right to me. It feels like I’m home at last.

I hope you have enjoyed my story

Oh, I learned lessons in the big, smelly city and even while lost on the road. My actions taught me self-reliance, survival skills, and provided me with almost limitless self-confidence. But I’ve proved myself and am now an accomplished, grown up dog. I take life a little easier now. You might say I’ve become semi-retired. At last I’ve discovered my real home and more about what makes this dog bark. Isn’t that an important aspect of anyone’s life?

 

The End

Paws Across Texas- Part III of Jack’s Story

Editor’s Note: This is the third portion of Little Jack’s Backstory that he has been dictating to me. By the way he loves to hear from those who have enjoyed his story. Please share any of your thoughts with us.

 

Little Jack, also known as Scrapper, dictating his backstory. Note he lays on two pillows- a long way from his days when he was on the road

 

That first night was awfully scary. That is because in the distance I heard the yipping and howling of coyotes. I could not see them, but I knew they were out there. They yapped and howled all night in a most unnerving way. While I had never confronted coyotes before, somehow I knew if they found me, it would not be good. I slept little and restlessly that night with one ear cocked up.

When the sun finally rose over the distant hills, I felt safer. I also felt hungry, as it had been a day since I had last eaten. With my nose to the ground I began to search for something to eat. Despite my concerns over finding food and safety while on my own, I reveled in my freedom and chance to explore new territory. At last the whole world lay before me just as I’d always hoped. It was like the world had become one big dog park.

Later that morning while walking down a stream bed I came across a strange round animal. The animal moved slowly and awkwardly. When I approached it, the animal pulled its head back into its hard shell that covered its body. I pawed at the animal, tempting it to come out. I managed to tip the animal over, but even then the animal did not stick out its head. I tried licking on the strange animal and found it cold, and it didn’t taste very good either. I decided I wasn’t hungry enough to wait out this odd creature. I departed to search for better hunting.

These days I do most of my hunting from the back of a pickup

The following day, I had still not eaten and my hunger had increased. I sensed a hollow feeling in my belly. Later that morning I came upon an animal that had thick scaly plates all over it, but this one moved considerably faster than had the round animal with the shell. This new animal could not retract its head into its shell as had the first one, and it gave me a tremendous chase before I managed to catch it. I bit down on its plated tail, only to have its powerful legs and clawed feet pull away from me.

The animal was almost as big as I was and seemed determined to escape. Eventually I grabbed its pointed head and shook that animal for all I was worth. I think I broke its neck, as while shaking it, I heard a snap like that of a breaking twig.

Desperate from hunger, I believed this animal could serve as a meal. After shaking the life from the armadillo, I began to tear at it with my teeth and claws until I penetrated its covering on its underside. It wasn’t the best of meals, yet the meat was warm and filled my empty belly. With improving hunting abilities and finding these animals plentiful, armadillos kept me mostly fed for the time I was on the road.

My excellent sense of smell helped me greatly and led me to many meals. I also learned on really hot days the rotting carcasses had extra vibrancy and could be more easily located. I learned this especially by finding dead animals along a roadside. While off putting, the strong smell simply had to be overlooked in order to serve as a meal.

Many days later while watching a ranch house from a safe distance, I saw a panel truck rumble up to front door of the house. The truck stopped in the driveway, and the driver climbed back into the back and pulled out a package. He then got out the back door of the truck, placed the package under his arm, and proceeded to take it to the door where he left it. Remembering how much I loved to ride, I impulsively ran to the truck and jumped through the open back door. Sometimes I just do things on the spur without thinking much about it.

The panel truck looked something like this one.

Once in the truck I looked about and quickly learned that the truck had no windows from which to see the passing scenery. I was disappointed. But it proved too late for me to jump out, as just then the truck’s back door slammed shut.

For the next several hours I mostly hid behind packages while the truck made multiple additional stops. At each stop the driver would remove one or more packages and deliver them to various houses.
Since then I’ve been asked if the truck was brown or if it had orange markings. I do not know because, you know, I am not very good at seeing colors. I can tell you though that the truck had a noisy ride and smelled of cardboard and paper.

I eventually felt the need to relieve myself. As I was closed up in the truck, I could not get out to find a proper pee target. To make matters worse, we traveled over bumpy country roads that worsened my sense of urgency. Eventually I couldn’t hold it any longer and hoisted a leg on a nearby box. Relief at last! I felt so much better.

That basic need addressed, I found myself again becoming hungry, which had remained my typical state ever since going on the road. While the driver of the truck was out delivering a package, I crept up next to his seat and pulled a food sack back among the packages and into my hiding place.
There I shared his sandwich, just like I had done in the big city with the sweet, flower scented girls. After finishing my fair portion of the sandwich and during one of the frequent stops, I returned the remaining food to its original place in an admittedly torn sack. I didn’t think the driver would mind or perhaps even notice. Well people, I was wrong!

When the driver stopped in a pull off area to eat his lunch, little did I expect his reaction? When he retrieved his lunch sack, he did not act at all as had the sweet smelling, young ladies in the big city. Not at all and, in fact, yelled out, opened the door to the back of the truck, and came back to where I was hiding. I saw his eyes cut to where I’d pee-d on one of the packages. I guess that too was a no-no, as he became even more excited. The driver began moving boxes around until he revealed me in my hiding place. I cowered back as far as I could. While he looked like a nice, clean-cut sort of young man, I learned that day that looks could be deceiving.

The next thing I knew, I was on the side of a busy highway. He had thrown me out the back of the truck. I licked my sore spots and thought how ungrateful the driver was. A real spoiled sport, I thought, because if the situation had been reversed, I would have gladly shared my armadillo with him. Ever since I have hated those panel trucks and will bark furiously whenever I see one. Panel trucks are bad news!

I began to trot alongside the highway. Some really large trucks screamed by with noisy wheels and huffy brakes. These trucks scared me and when I heard them coming, I would retreat into the weeds and trees alongside the highway. There I felt a little safer. I would hide until they passed.

I don’t have to sleep in the wild any longer but sometimes I have to share my bed with another dog

Also to my surprise by the highway, I found old deer bones. I’ve always had powerful jaw muscles and was able to crack the bones and eat them, marrow and all. Occasionally I came across a freshly killed animal hit by a passing car. The deer meat, if it hadn’t already gone bad, was especially yummy. I was able to fill my belly in this way, although the quality of the deer carcasses proved variable. Nevertheless, my road-kill finds provided me with periodic meals and kept me going. I was, however, losing weight. I noticed my ribs had begun to protrude, and I stayed hungry most of the time. My energy also had begun to diminish. My paw pads had become sore and required my licking them thoroughly every evening before falling asleep.

I also once had a close call when dragging a dead possum off the road. I misjudged the speed of the approaching car and barely escaped becoming road-kill myself. I recall the blaring of the car’s horn and the screeching of its tires. The car just grazed me but left me with a sore hip and the bad smell of burning rubber in my nose. More than hurt, I was scared. I had come so close to being killed on the highway.

At my first opportunity I crossed the highway and headed down a shady, less traveled country road. I put increasing distance between the highway and me. On each side of the lane, I found ranches with a stream crossing under a bridge on the road. The cool water was so good. On one side of the road was a long stacked rock wall. I saw several horses peeking their big heads over the wall. They looked none too friendly to this hungry dog, and I determined their pasture wasn’t good to wander through.
While road-kill proved scarce along the country lane, the woods along the creek had live animals including squirrels, possums, mice, and armadillos. I couldn’t be sure of making a kill every day, but my hunting proved successful enough to sustain me.

One night the temperature dropped very low. When I had left my people from the big stinky city, the leaves had begun to fall from the trees. After having been on the road for a long time the nights became very cold and ice formed in the creeks.

It was during this cold time when one night I heard a loud screaming sound, a sound I had never before heard. The eerie sound caused me to lift my nose from under my tail where I had placed it to keep it warm. The frightening noise repeated many times, and I could tell it was coming closer and closer toward me. I jumped up onto a dark, rocky ledge. I drew back until my tail touched a wall. I crouched low. I lay very still on the cold rocks. I was downwind of the approaching animal. The scent in my nose was like nothing I had ever smelled.

That Mountain Lion looked like this

Again I heard an even louder cry. Just then out of the shadows came the biggest cat I’d ever seen. It padded by not more than fifty feet away. The large animal was slender and had a small head. Its color was a light tone and it had a very long tail. Its eyes looked menacing and unblinking. I felt my heart race and I began to shiver in fright. Slowly, ever so slowly the cat silently moved my way.

My thoughts briefly flashed back to earlier in the day when I had found a huge store of deer bones in a nearby cedar thicket. Only after spotting the mountain lion did I comprehend what had created that bone yard. I understood the risk that now stood on four paws mere feet away from me. I remained very quiet, nearly frozen in terror. I prepared to fight as best I could should the giant cat detect my scent and attack. Oh I hope that mountain lion isn’t mad at me for discovering its haunt and for having taking some of its store of bones!

The mountain lion gave me the impression that it might slink off when suddenly it stopped, turned around, and stared vacantly with bright eyes in my direction. I saw its whiskers twitch. It must have sensed something but couldn’t identify where or exactly what was out there. I barely breathed and suppressed my desire to pant or to run. The giant cat took several steps toward me, but stopped, as if considering what next to do. I could tell the mountain lion was four or five times my size, and I instinctively knew that I could not outrun it and certainly couldn’t out climb it.

I searched my experience for a way to escape that scary predicament. What could I do? What could I do? Then it came to me– the bluff that Tex and I had played on the puppies. It was a real long shot, but I could think of nothing better. What choice did I have? Suddenly I drew myself up, pushed out my chest, and flung myself off the ledge. During my descent, I let out a fearsome howl and on hitting the ground, charged directly at the mountain lion. In the process I made as much noise as possible by knocking down small bushes and breaking sticks. The cat startled, shrank back, and then turned away. To my relief, it sprinted off into the woods.

As soon as the giant cat turned, I pivoted and raced away in exactly the opposite direction. I ran as fast as I could. My heart pounded, and I didn’t stop shivering from fright for several minutes. I had successfully bluffed that giant mountain lion. What luck. But it had been a very close call, far too close for my satisfaction.

I continued to run through the woods and didn’t stop until completely out of breath. About then I came across a flock of goats and sheep. I was tiring of being a lone dog and believed it would be safer to join up with those sheep and goats. After all, they were numerous and safety existed in numbers.

Just as I began to circle prior to plopping down, I saw an angry donkey heading my way, braying loudly. The donkey clearly was unhappy about something, as it had its head down and charged in my direction. When it turned around in front of me and just before it began kicking, I took my leave. But my terror due to almost having been kicked by an angry donkey had not ended, as I quickly encountered an even larger animal. It was light colored and had thick, shaggy fur, a long neck and later I learned it was a llama. The llama pursued me. I zigged and zagged in my attempt to avoid that strong-minded and persistent llama.

I mean that donkey looked mean

I tried running under trees beneath which it could not go. I wasn’t but about fifty yards from a barbed wire fence through which I was able to slip. The fence acted as a barrier and halted the mad llama. The shaggy beast stood at the fence looking really bossy and spitting at me. I then moved on down the country road.

Having barely reached safety, I trotted along the roadway and avoided pastures. I remember wondering why donkeys and llamas were so protective of goats and sheep and how ill mannered they had been. After all I wasn’t there to eat one of their precious charges, only herd up with them.

Not long after I found an even smaller road, heading off to the left. I took it because it put still greater distance between me and the mountain lion, donkey, and llama. After a while, I felt reasonably safe from those scary and cranky animals, at least safe enough to stop and rest. Indeed, I felt exhausted, emotionally shaken, and very sleepy.

Nearby was a dry creek bed where I curled up. Never before had I felt such total exhaustion. I covered my nose with my tail and rapidly fell asleep. I had a cold night’s sleep in that uncomfortable, rocky creek bottom. When I awoke I thought back to my previous warm beds in the big stinky city and the cozy dog box of my puppyhood. My life in the wild had evolved from a carefree adventure to what had become a journey increasingly packed with great risk and discomfort.

 

To Be Continued